Roman Catholics are planning a billion-dollar project that could turn out to be the largest evangelization effort ever attempted by the 810 million-member church. Called “Evangelization 2000,” the ten-year project will culminate with a worldwide satellite telecast on Christmas Day in the year 2000. During that telecast, Pope John Paul II or his successor is scheduled to speak to a potential audience of at least 5 billion people.

This ambitious scenario was described by Tom Forrest, the Redemptorist priest in charge of “Evangelization 2000.” The project, conceived in 1984 by Catholic charismatics with the aid of the conservative Catholic student movement Communione e Liberazione, will enlist the aid of many sectors of the church.

“The object is to give Jesus Christ a 2,000th birthday gift of a world more Christian than not,” Forrest says. “We want to bring the world back to Christ.…”

Among the thousands expected to help with the effort will be the 1,400-member Catholic charismatic Community of God’s Delight in Dallas, which will produce television programs for “Evangelization 2000.” “The technology is here to preach the gospel to the whole earth,” says community coordinator Bobbie Cavnar. The job of evangelizing the world can be done with “direct broadcast satellites,” he says, which beam signals to portable satellite-receiving dishes. This type of satellite technology is being refined to allow any viewer to receive a signal from anywhere in the world with only a small dish and a receiver.

“Evangelization 2000” will use that type of technology to broadcast a papal message to Catholic missionaries who will record the transmissions on video-tape, then translate the audio into the local language. Cavnar says channels that cover most of the world’s countries are available on existing satellites.

“I applaud what he [Forrest] is trying to do,” says Alvin Illig, director of the Paulist National Catholic Evangelization Center in Washington, D.C. “I think [the project] is very, very possible with the technology that we have today.” Forrest has opened an office at the Vatican to prepare for the ten-year evangelization effort. He and his staff hope to motivate each Catholic diocese, religious order, lay movement, church organization, and parish council to evangelize its own sector of society.

He is planning to organize a retreat for the world’s Catholic bishops in 1989. The conference will inform the bishops about “Evangelization 2000” and provide them with books of sermons on evangelization. A worldwide conference for 7,000 priests is planned for 1990 with the same goals in mind.

Other aspects of “Evangelization 2000” will include a papal proclamation of a “decade of evangelization,” a worldwide prayer crusade, and the proclamation of the gospel through traveling evangelistic teams.

“The political [barriers, of reaching closed countries,] and financial barriers are immense,” Cavnar says. “But our plans are to obey God and let God worry about the rest.”

By Julia Duin.

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